You may be reading this from the office on your first day back, in the parking lot of the day care you’ve prayed over, or in your baby’s nursery while you get dressed. If you’re like me, you may be reading this long before you return to work because you’re already dreading that day. You may be reading this through tear-stained vision. You may be reading this with or without your baby in your arms.
However you are right now, I’m glad you’re here. You’re about to return to work after maternity leave, and, like all the moms before you, you’re scared. Nervous. Guilty. Tired. Sad.
Going back to work is hard. In fact, it may be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. You may think you’re not strong enough to be away from your baby all day, but you can do it. How do I know? Because you’ve already been through something far more difficult. You brought life into this world. You may have pushed with every ounce of your being. You may have held on as you were wheeled into surgery. Or, you may have waited for months, even years, for the day your adoption went through. No matter how you became a mother, you were strong. Oh, so strong.
If you can do that, you can do anything.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It will be difficult. When you leave your heart with someone else, whether it’s day care, a nanny, or a trusted family member, you will ache. You will feel the pull of your child, and it will hurt.
It’s okay to cry.
But please, momma, don’t cry because you feel guilty. You have talents, gifts, and goals. Maybe you went to school to do what you do (and maybe you’re still paying for it). You chose to pursue your dreams before your baby came along, and it’s okay to pursue them now. You’re providing for your baby. You’re bringing home money that may better your child’s life. You’re showing her a beautiful example of what it looks like to be a working mother. You’re teaching him that a woman can have a successful career outside of the home.
You’re doing that.
There may be a moment when you find yourself secretly enjoying your free time. When you get your morning cup of coffee or eat your lunch without being tethered to your baby’s schedule or reacting to his every need, you may feel relieved. Know this, momma – it’s okay to feel that way. You’re not a bad mother because you enjoy a few minutes alone. In fact, you become an even better mother when you take care of yourself.
People will ask how you’re doing. They will ask every minute of your first few days back. Because it may be difficult to muster a response without breaking down (again), have a canned answer ready. “Hanging in there.” “Getting better every day.” “Doing what’s best for my family.” Take breaks and let yourself breathe. Bring photos of your baby so he’s always in sight, and try sending positive thoughts to him throughout the day. Maybe he can’t hear you, but a child’s bond with his mother is like no other. It can’t hurt to try.
You will miss your baby. You will worry that her caretaker won’t know what to do when she cries. After all, you’ve spent the last couple of months with her. You know all of her quirks. But, they will learn. They will learn to love your child and your child will be all the better for it.
Yes, you will spend many hours apart. Yes, you may miss some of his milestones. But while you’re at work providing for her, she’s making friends. While you’re pursuing your dreams, he’s learning and gaining valuable social interaction.
At the end of the day, your baby will still be yours. She will still light up when you walk in the room. He will still fall asleep on your chest.
When the workday ends, hold him close. Kiss her face and let her tiny hand grip onto your finger. Breathe him in.
He will know you’re a wonderful mother. She will know she is loved.
Now suit up, dust off, and get to work. You’re too strong not to.